Today is Memorial Day in the US. It began as a tribute to fallen Union Soldiers after the Civil War, and now honors all those who have died in the service of their country.
I have no such soldiers in my own family that I knew personally, though in the generations that preceded mine, we have many veterans of various wars. And I have friends who have lost loved ones in war. And today I gratefully bow my head to honor those who have so served.
Our family has lived overseas a number of times because of my work. It's been exciting to live in Asia and Latin America, to learn new languages (or to try!) and new cultures, to see exotic place we otherwise would not have visited, and to learn about what makes us the same and different across the human family.
One thing my wife has worked particularly hard to do is to help our children to retain their American-ness while overseas. She and I are grateful to have been born in the country we were, and we have sought to share a love for that country with our children. And our children (and we) have had that patriotism tempered by our international experiences.
That is to say, I know that the United States of America is a blessed land and great country. But it is not the only great country. I know that many Americans, regardless of which side of the political aisle they occupy, love their country. But I know that citizens of other nations love their county, too. I know that American ingenuity and opportunity have allowed many to achieve the American dream -- rising out of poverty, improving one's circumstance, able to give their children better lives than they did. I believe I've been able to do this for my own children. But I also know that parents in many countries seek this same ideal and many achieve it.
I also know that the United States is not perfect. And by not perfect I do not mean disagrees with my flavor of politics (though there are plenty who do and that's ok).
We were talking about the Pledge of Allegiance yesterday. My son asked my daughter if they are still saying that every day in her elementary school. She reported they were and he was aghast! I pointed out that one of the reasons they are is because when I learned a few years ago they weren't, I wrote letters to the principal and to the school board encouraging them to do so.
My all knowing 14-year old son insisted that America is NOT a country of liberty and justice for all. And he cited some political hot buttons to bolster his case (he argues just like his father...). I allowed that the United States is not perfect. But it is also a place where for hundreds of years political power shifts from party to party peacefully. And a place where that political process allows for open and vigorous debate.
And it is a place I'm happy to call home.